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OPINION: Confidence in P.E.I. food

Program to provide consumers place for reliable information on Island grown food.
(File Graphic)
Program to provide consumers place for reliable information on Island grown food. (File Graphic) - The Guardian

Program to provide consumers place for reliable information on Island grown food

BY DAVID MOL

GUEST OPINION

As the chairman of Farm & Food Care P.E.I., and the president of the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture, I welcome the letter from Douglas Campbell of the National Farmers Union that lays forth his concerns related to our program and its creation in the province of P.E.I.

Farm & Food Care P.E.I. is a program led by the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture (PEIFA) that is meant to engage consumers and provide them with a place to go for reliable and credible information related to Island grown food products.

The PEIFA is a grassroots, member-based farm organization composed of family farms from all major sectors of agriculture on P.E.I., plus 15 individual commodity organizations. As a not-for-profit farm organization, we serve as a collective voice for the Island farming community while providing programming for farmers on farm safety and environmental stewardship.

The PEIFA leads Farm & Food Care P.E.I. as a part of small steering committee that includes: P.E.I. Potato Board, Dairy Farmers of P.E.I., the P.E.I. Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Amalgamated Dairies Limited, Cavendish Farms, P.E.I. Agriculture Awareness Committee, Sobey’s, and the Canadian Centre for Food Integrity. These entities and organizations were chosen because of their relationship within the food system and their impact on P.E.I. This volunteer committee adheres to a mission to enhance consumer confidence in all P.E.I. food products.

program is modeled after Farm & Food Care Ontario and Farm & Food Care Saskatchewan. However, it is important to note that P.E.I. is its own entity. The P.E.I. program is focused on P.E.I. and those making decisions about its direction are Islanders. Furthermore, a much larger Advisory Committee will be struck in the next year that is even broader based, reaching out to individuals working within P.E.I.’s food sector. Farm & Food Care P.E.I. is not interested in being selective in whom it listens to or what information is relevant to Island consumers. We agree in the need to be transparent.

As a person who has committed their life to working on my own family farm and more recently for farm families across the province, I believe Farm & Food Care P.E.I. is exciting news for consumers and for farmers. This program is designed to initiate dialogue and begin a conversation with consumers on P.E.I. about how food and farming connects us all.

The Canadian Centre for Food Integrity (CCFI) conducted a national survey in 2016, asking Canadians to share concerns about their food. Results of the survey provided information specific to P.E.I. consumers; and further solidified what the PEIFA already recognized, that Island consumers are knowledgeable, informed and concerned about how their food is produced and where it comes from.

The survey also confirmed that consumers have important questions that require accurate, respectful and transparent responses. It is our intent at Farm & Food Care P.E.I. to help them acquire the information they need to make informed decisions and increase their confidence in the Island food products they eat.

According to Statistics Canada, in 1951, 47 per cent of the population of P.E.I. lived on a farm. In 1976, 13.4 per cent of the population lived on a farm and today less than 3.5 per cent of the present population lives on a farm. We are also fortunate to have many new residents coming to our province and our country. The resultant urban concentration means that the divide between the farming community and the general public has not been wider.

Interestingly, as the most densely populated province in Canada, the physical divide is not as wide and while consumers here on P.E.I. can see some of what happens on a farm, the deeper story of how and why needs to be told. The need to talk transparently about our food system is important.

& Food Care P.E.I. has only just been launched. It is my hope that Islanders give this program an opportunity to be established and thrive before passing judgement on its validity. We want Islanders to have a place to turn for information on food production in our province, regardless of your food preferences. Ultimately, we want Islanders to have confidence in the food produced here in P.E.I. and available in our markets and grocery stores.

- David Mol is a farmer, chair, Farm & Food Care P.E.I.; and president, P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture

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